Chatfield High students sending experiment to space

KUSA- In a high school lab, all of the bubbling and shaking are just part of the balancing act for a group of full-time school students and part-time space station scientists.

"It was a lot of work, after school work, coming in trying to get things to work," Chatfield High School Senior Tim Stroup said.

They are all part of a group 26 students at Chatfield High School working on a bioreactor, designed to grow algae in space.

"Essentially, what we're trying to do is create a way to produce bio-fuel in space," Chatfield High School senior Rachel Mamich said. "That would lead to longer missions."

It's a marvel of computer programming and hardware, including LED lights, which provide artificial light for the algae to grow.

"[We] recently wrote a program to create an artificial sunrise," Stroup said. "So, we slowly turn up the amount of light that these LEDs are producing."

The students are using two strains of algae: one that produces oils; another that produces hydrogen. Both can be turned into renewable biofuels. The questions is: will the algae grow in the weightless environment of space?

"That was a huge thing to be able to give them a real world experience," science teacher and project advisor Joel Bertelsen said.

It is a real-world experience, which will soon be high above it. In June, the students' device and the algae will launch from a SpaceX rocket at Cape Canaveral and head to the international Space Station.

"There's always challenges with anything scientific—especially if it's going to be going to space," Mamich said.

It's a rare opportunity, but one that's given these students confidence, as they prepare to graduate.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to be an engineer before this project, but after starting it, I'm like, 'This is what I want to do,'" Chatfield High School Senior Trevor Schrepel said.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space sponsors sending student experiments to the International Space Station. The Chatfield students' device will head up on Space-X 7 on June 19. They'll get the results of their experiment three to six months later.

You can follow their progress at chatfieldndc.weebly.com

(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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